moviereview colin fraser film movie australia review critic flicks

Kieran Darcy-Smith’s first feature Wish You Were Here is a cautionary tale indeed. Four youngish Aussies set off from Sydney for a week in Cambodia to have some fun in the sun, only to have all hell break loose. Why? Well, it’s that same ol’, same ol’ problem when groups of innocent/ignorant travellers head off to South-East Asia with little cultural sensitivity in their packs; at least, judging by their choice of attire and their ‘all about me’ attitudes. Skimpy clothing and public drunkenness may be OK in the streets of Oz but they don’t translate all that well in conservative Cambodia. Some people have very short memories; while these days the country is very much on the backpacker map as a place for young westerners to go for a cheap holiday, it is not that long since Cambodians were being systematically brutalized by the totalitarian rule of the Khmer Rouge.

Dave (Joel Edgerton) and Alice (Felicity Price) are about to have their third child. When Alice’s sister Steph (Teresa Palmer) hooks up with a rakish young man, Jeremy (Antony Starr), she convinces her sister and brother-in-law to join them both for a week in Cambodia for a ‘last blast’ before they get bogged down in domesticity. They lie in the sun, eat weird bugs and end up at the inevitable dance party where they all take ecstasy - except Alice because she has a baby on the way. Alice goes off to bed early while the others manage to completely destroy, through various misadventures, what could have been a pleasant break away from the daily grind of life in Australia.

Upon returning to Sydney we learn that Jeremy has gone missing and the rest of the film is a search for the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of his disappearance. What it reveals is a tale of betrayal, mistrust and violence that alters all the protagonists’ lives. It’s an interesting, clever script (by the director and his wife, the actress who plays Alice) but it’s marred by the fact that you don’t really feel empathy for any of the characters. These people are so deeply flawed it’s hard to identify with any of them.

There are fine performances from the leads and the locations are stunning, from the beaches of Sihanoukville on the south coast of Cambodia to Sydney’s Tamarama. All are well-served by Jules O’Loughlin’s fine cinematography. Darcy-Smith deserves credit for this debut feature and word of mouth may give his film a good run at the box office. This is a very different vacation to the one Jello Biafra sang about in The Dead Kennedys 1980’s ironic Holiday in Cambodia but it is a story that is not far removed from possibility and, for the Aussies in the film, it’s one that is almost as monstrous.

moviereview colin fraser film movie australia review critic flicks


Joel Edgerton
Teresa Palmer
Felicity Price
Antony Starr

Kieran Darcy-Smith

Kieran Darcy-Smith
Felicity Price


M / 93 minutes

April 25, 2012
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